Inside: Learn how to manage your baby and toddler from dinner through bedtime. This Bedtime Routine is perfect for moms of a baby and toddler or an infant and toddler.
If you missed Part 1 of this series (morning through naptime daily routine) you can still learn about our daily routine here.
Where we left off…
In Part 1: How to Manage a Baby & Toddler as a Stay-at-home-mom, we ended with both baby and toddler taking their afternoon naps. Managing a baby and toddler from naptime wake-ups through bedtime is actually the new concept for Season 3 of Ultimate Beastmaster on Netflix 🙂
For real, though, when naptime actually happens, and both kids are able to sleep at the same time, it feels as though you can actually hear angels singing.
When naptime’s over though, the real fun begins.
For me, the bedtime routine really starts directly following afternoon naps. Since there isn’t much time left until bed, the rest of the afternoon sets the tone for the end of the day.
The game plan is pretty simple:
1. Tire out baby and toddler in fresh air
2. Eat dinner
3. Take a calming bath
4. Read stories
5. Go to sleep
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Below I’ll share approximate times and details for our bedtime routine (post-nap and on)
3pm-4:30pm: After my toddler wakes up from her nap there is generally a 30-minute-no-fly-zone-of-crankiness that requires a lot of “mommy hold you,” “want all the GoGo Squeez’s ever made,” and “don’t want Charlie to look at you.” Charlie is our dog, by the way.
Once this toddler cranky-time passes, here’s what we’ll do:
- Take the dogs for a walk (baby in Ergobaby Wearer, toddler pushing doll stroller)
- Play outside (sidewalk chalk, ride tricycle, do bubbles, play in playhouse, etc.) I’ll either wear my baby during this time or bring out her baby exersaucer seat for her to play in.
- Or if the weather isn’t good we’ll just play inside (build blocks, color, read, play dolls, etc.)
Dinnertime AKA How to Make Dinner with a Baby & Toddler
4:30-5pm: After outdoor playtime, I get the girls inside and make dinner!
That’s right, it’s the early bird special at our house, every night. Even Penelope is cranky if she doesn’t eat at 5pm and she’s only 8 months old.
Baby: Truth be told, babywearing while cooking is just not my favorite. Something about bouncing a baby while trying to chop veggies or deal with raw chicken is just not fun, you know?
But if the baby is being fussy, I just put her in the Ergo and make it happen. If she’s okay with playing on her own, I have an older version of this baby seat in the kitchen and I also have foam padding on the floors that she can crawl around on and play.
Toddler: TV is a last resort while I’m making dinner, but I do what I have to. I recently made my toddler an easy DIY sensory bin with lentils, wild rice, white rice, black-eyed peas and a bunch of other fun stuff. I’ve found that this can really keep her occupied and sitting in one place while I make dinner.
More Screen-Free ways to entertain your toddler while you cook dinner:
- Put them in their high chair or booster seat to do playdough
- Favorite character (Daniel Tiger, Minnie Mouse, etc.) coloring/activity book that is kept hidden and only used for this sole purpose
- Refrigerator magnets (#oldschool)
- Set up a tea party with their favorite toys
Dinnertime Resources for Moms
- Life-Changing Meal Planning Hacks
- Easy No-Recipe-Required Dinner Ideas from Real Moms
- What I Fed My Kids This Week
5pm-5:30pm: Eat dinner! We followed the baby-led weaning method with both kids so we all eat the same dinner, which makes things very easy and fun. If your toddler is a picky eater and has trouble eating what the rest of the family eats, I highly recommend this life-changing resource!
In order to simplify dinnertime, I rely on my printable meal planning cheat sheet, which has been a real lifesaver lately.
Bathtime with a Baby & Toddler
5:45ish-7:00ish: Bath & Bedtime Routine
- Bathtime with an infant and toddler: put your infant in a portable bouncer seat you can bring into the bathroom with you while you bathe your toddler.
- Bathtime with a baby and toddler: if you have a big enough tub (I use the tub in our master bedroom), put the baby in their little bathtub inside your tub, while your toddler sits in the big tub. Make sure to keep the drain open on your baby’s bathtub, and it’s also a good idea to keep your hand on the baby’s tub so it doesn’t sway. I realize this is not ideal, but we do what we have to with a baby and toddler. (Sometimes, I’ll just get in the tub with them and hold the baby!) – Whatever works!
Step 1: Get the baby out of the tub first and let toddler keep playing. Get the baby all dry and changed into PJs.
Step 2: Put baby in pack-n-play in your bedroom, and then get your toddler out of the tub and get them in PJs, while your baby plays in a safe, confined place 🙂
- Luckily, my changing table is right next to the bathroom, so I can still see and hear my toddler in the tub. I would NEVER recommend leaving your toddler in the tub unattended (or your baby for that matter).
- I know some moms who use their master bathroom (stand alone shower) and have their toddler shower while they give the baby a bath, but my toddler decidedly does not like water on her head, so here we are.
- If you need to get both kids out at the same time, drain the tub, take your toddler out first (so your hands are free) and set your toddler on the bath mat, then get the baby out.
Toddler Routine Tips & Ideas
Bedtime with a Baby & Toddler
- Spouse/Partner is Home: Everyone gets a kid! Mom does baby’s bedtime and dad does toddler’s. Easy.
- Flying Solo: I have tried (and failed) at many different versions of this. There is no perfect way to put a baby and toddler to bed at once. So give yourself some Grace with a capital G here. One child has obviously got to go to sleep first, and sometimes, there is no clear-cut answer as to who it should be.
Here are some ideas to get you started
Step 1: Set up a quiet-time space in your toddler’s room. You can use a special clear storage bin that has “quiet” toys they can play with before bed (books, puzzles, stuffed animals, etc.).
Explain to them that you are going to put the baby to sleep and they are going to play quietly in their room. You can say something along the lines of: “When mommy is done putting baby sister to sleep, we will have a special storytime together in your room, and then I will tuck you in for goodnight songs.”
This routine takes practice and repetition before it “sticks”
Step 2: After your toddler is set up with their “quiet time” – get baby down for bed. Easier said than done. My toddler would often come out of her room looking for me, open the door to the baby’s room, or have a general end-of-day tantrum because I couldn’t be in two places at once.
- As time went on, this whole routine became easier for my toddler. However, when she was on the younger side, closer to 2 years old, this whole concept was very difficult for her to embrace.
- I tried many different versions of this and I’ve had the most success with the version I’ve shared with you above. The primary reason being that toddlers NEED that special attention from you at the end of the day, which is almost impossible when you also have a baby to attend to.
- I found that if I could keep my toddler entertained long enough, I could get the baby to sleep and then have that one-on-one time with her.
Step 3: Make good on your promise! After putting the baby down for bed, it’s stories, songs, and off to sleep for toddler!
Step 4: Netflix. Wine. Ice Cream. Repeat as needed.
Congrats! You’ve made it to the end of the day with a baby and toddler. For me, the proverbial finish line is when the dishwasher is running, the toys are put away, and my body has become one with the couch.
I realize this is probably more information that you bargained for, but as a new mom of one and then a new mom of two, it’s tough trying to figure all this stuff out on your own, which is why I wanted to share my play-by-play with you.
Please remember that I am not a professional in any way, just a mom like you, sharing her experiences.
These tips are fantastic! Thanks for sharing.
Thanks, Maria! Hope you find them helpful! 🙂
It sounds like mine too. ? a 6 month old baby baby girl and a 4 year old Isaac. Getting Isaac ready for school and taking him to school along with the baby is more fun.
Oh man. I’ve been gearing myself up for preschool drop-off in the morning with baby & toddler. I think that’s an idea for a whole other post! Thanks so much for sharing!!
I am a single stay at home mom with a 2 year old daughter as well as a 3 month old daughter. My fiance got up picked up my immigration and is being detained so I jave zero help and I mean ZERO. No family to speak of and im also new to where I live so I dont know anyone really. I could really use some advice and thats why im writing this comment after reading multiple articles of yours and really related to them. So if this is ok will you please reach out to me?
Hey Justyne, thanks for commenting and reaching out. I’m sorry to hear about what you’re going through and I’m happy to help! Feel free to reply back with questions or you can always email me at [email protected]
Diana Abbott says
Thanks.. this is so helpful. I also have a 2 year old and 8 month old. My nanny who takes care of the for a couple of hours in the day is moving away, so it’ll be me flying solo all day. Not looking forward to it. Also, does anyone do any mommy and me classes with your toddlers? How do you occupy the baby while trying to do interactive classes with the toddler?
Hi Diana – glad to hear you found this post helpful! When I took my toddler to music class or storytime, I would always wear the baby in the Ergobaby wearer. She was content to stay in the wearer the whole time (and sometimes even fell asleep) and I could focus on my toddler. As my baby got a little older, I would rotate the wearer and wear her on my back so she could see over my shoulder. From the time my second baby could crawl to just before walking, I almost always had her in the Ergo when I was out with my toddler since it was just easier and safer for everyone. Hope this helps!
This is great if you have an independent toddler, but I cannot imagine my son playing on his own for so many different periods in the day. Currently he will throw a fit if I leave the room for a second and insists I am with him constantly! Did you feel this changed once the baby came? He will be 2 when baby is born (in a couple of weeks) and i am trying to wrap my brain around how this will actually work
Hi Ellie! My toddler also turned 2 right when her baby sister was born. If anything she became MORE clingy (understandably) after the baby was born. This routine took a lot of practice and, I’m not going to sugarcoat it, a lot of crying from everyone (me included) in general. But after a few weeks it eventually “stuck” and she began to look forward to that special quiet time, because she knew it would be just me and her reading books quietly together before bed. Some things that helped convince her to stay quietly in her room while I put the baby to bed: new quiet toys/books that she got to pick out on Amazon, HATCH Baby Rest Nightlight (can also find on Amazon) or linked in this post which you can program with certain colors, songs, and times. So for instance you could say “when the light is red you have to stay in your room, when it turns green you can come out” – etc.
I also used to have her “help” me put her baby sister to bed by reading stories, singing songs, zipping up her sleep sack, etc. and then she would take her baby doll and put her baby to bed in her room, so we were both putting our babies to bed at the same time. I had to get creative a lot, and sometimes had to adapt to whatever was working for her at the time. But I will tell you, as your son gets older it will get easier and he will get used to whatever routine you practice with him! I also highly recommend reading “Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings” by Dr. Laura Markham – life-changer for moms of two close in age!!